16 February 2009

Socialized Medicine: Disaster or Opportunity?

The recently-passed pork package 'Stimulus bill' contained several provisions to start us on the road toward socialized medicine. As wrong as I think this is on a philosophical and Constitutional level, our family still has to deal with the fall-out of this decision.

Caring for the sick is a mandate from Christ to his people. Up until the 20th Century, life spans were short and hard, filled with pain and suffering.

As the church matured, caring for the sick became an important focus of ministry. According to Wikipedia:
The adoption of Christianity as the state religion of the [Roman] empire drove an expansion of the provision of care. The First Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. urged the Church to provide for the poor, sick, widows, and strangers. It ordered the construction of a hospital in every cathedral town. Among the earliest were those built by the physician Saint Sampson in Constantinople and by Basil, bishop of Caesarea. The latter was attached to a monastery and provided lodgings for poor and travelers, as well as treating the sick and infirm. There was a separate section for lepers.
Health care, in the context of the Christian church, was viewed as an opportunity for ministry.  Just as we will always have the poor with us, so we will always have the sick with us, simply because we live in a fallen world.  This attitude, that caring for the sick is a ministry, continued on for most of history.  Think about the country doctor who would deliver a baby in exchange for a couple of chickens.  He lived among those he ministered to and, even if he didn't become rich, was held in high esteem by the community.  His care wasn't just technical; it was ministry, based on love and compassion.  (edit: A friend told me Sunday evening that he knew doctors who worked like this up to the 1980's.)

Then someone, somewhere, suggested that, if we wanted more doctors of better quality, we should pay them more and medical care became a business. This lead to people entering the medical profession for the money, not for the sake of ministry and compassion.  Doctors became businessmen more than ministers.  (Do I have to say it?  Okay.  Not all doctors are in it for the money - I know those who aren't - I'm speaking in general terms.)

This new attitude brings us to our current situation.  Health care is big business.  But it's not really a free market.  Because of tax laws that don't tax health insurance benefits, to save money and attract high-quality employees, employers began offering health insurance as an extra benefit.  However, those who were covered forgot that their health benefits were part of their pay, earned just as their paychecks are earned.  Because costs of health-care weren't coming directly from their own pockets, they stopped comparison shopping and considering if certain tests and procedures were truly necessary and beneficial.  We haven't had a free market in health care.  (There are exceptions in certain specialties that aren't covered by insurance, such as cosmetic surgery, and the free market has worked well, encouraging competition, comparison shopping, dropping prices, and higher quality.  No, I'm not planning on cosmetic surgery - it's simply an interesting microcosm of what the free market could do for medicine in general, if it were given a chance, although it wouldn't solve every problem (more below).)

With the nationalization of health care, rationing will be the order of the day.  The first thing done was to create a national committee to oversee health care (signed into law today in Denver).  You may pay for a procedure or a medicine (either out of your own pocket or through your insurance company), but this committee can and will call your doctor and tell him not to do the procedure or to stop the medication, all in the name of cutting costs.  Doctors who try to buck the system will be fined and fined heavily.  They won't be able to do what you and the doctor together think is best, but will have to abide by decisions of an unelected (and thus unaccountable) bureaucrat in Washington.

Nationalized medicine is a very bad thing, but it could turn out to be a golden opportunity for the church.  The church must step back in and care for the sick as a ministry.  Families should be prepared to care for their own.  When there is no family available, or if the family is unable to care fully for their own, then the church should step in to help.  At this point, we won't be able to offer medications (there's even a drive to make medicinal herbs available by prescription only), but we can offer comfort, compassion, nourishment for body and soul, a human touch, and love.  These are vital components of caring for the sick that have been largely lost in the rush to make it a business instead of a ministry, components that the family and the church can and must offer.

We will be learning how to care well for someone who is sick: how to change bedsheets while someone is in the bed, how to avoid bed sores, how to feed the sick so as to help and comfort them, possibly light massage to help ease aching muscles.  I'm going to work more on my kids' ability to read aloud well, in preparation for caring for someone who needs human companionship, to hear a human voice, yet who might not be up to conversing.

And yes, I've got some selfish motivations here.  As cost becomes everything, euthanasia will grow, not all of it voluntary (do a little research on euthanasia in the Netherlands for a peek at where we're headed).  My kids have assured me that I won't be left to the vicissitudes of a bureaucrat's arbitrary decisions regarding whether I live or die if I ever become simply a 'worthless eater'.  They plan to care for me at home out of appreciation for my work in caring for, educating, and raising them.  Now that's a health care system I can believe in.


14 February 2009

Vocational Reading: Motherhood, Home Education

Edith Scheaffer's What Is a Family?
How to Raise a Healthy Child … in Spite of Your Doctor, by Dr. Robert Mendelsohn
The Five Standards for Safe Childbearing, by David Stewart
Shepherding a Child's Heart, by Ted Tripp
Age of Opportunity, by Ted Tripp
Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood, by Carolyn Mahaney & Nicole Mahaney Whitacre
A Full Quiver, by Rick and Jan Hess
A Mom Just Like You, by Vicki Farris

Home Education:
Norms & Nobility, by David Hicks
The Trivium, by Sister Miriam Joseph (I haven't read this through, but I've been dipping in as I re-work my approach to rhetoric and composition, logic, and grammar.)
The Case for Classical Christian Education, by Douglas Wilson
The Seven Laws of Teaching, by John Milton Gregory (haven't read this one yet, but it's on my shelf.)
Wisdom and Eloquence: A Christian Paradigm for Classical Learning, by Robert Littlejohn (I haven't read this one either, but it's on my list and has been highly recommended by those I trust.)

Add to the Home Education list biographies, history, science, logic, literature, math, economics, philosophy, etc.


11 February 2009

Vocational Reading: General & Marriage

I originally set up a list of 'vocational' books that have had an influence on me through the last 20 years, but the list ended up being absolutely huge.  I decided that it might be better if I divided the list out by topic. Some of these may be considered 'controversial', and you may not agree with everything written on every page, but that's okay. They've all had a rôle in shaping me. I hope to add to these lists as time goes by.

Womanhood in general:

Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, by John Piper and Wayne Grudem
Discipline: The Glad Surrender, by Elisabeth Elliot
Feminine Appeal, by Carolyn Mahaney
Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
The Way Home: Beyond Feminism and Back to Reality, by Mary Pride
Missing From Action, by Weldon Hardenbrook (primarily for and about men, but his discussion of the industrial revolution's effects on the family and the subsequent rebellion of feminists against something that was much different than biblical womanhood is spot on and eye-opening.)


When Sinners Say 'I Do', by Dave Harvey
Love That Lasts, by Gary and Betsy Ricucci
On Marriage and Family Life, by Saint John Chrysostom (haven't read this yet, but it's sitting in my Amazon cart and the author comes highly recommended ;-D)

NB: if you decide to purchase any of these books, please put it in your Amazon cart directly from the link given. If you go to another page and come back to the item, it will no longer have my associate's code linked to your purchase. I've been an Amazon associate for a couple of years (meaning I receive a small percentage of every purchase of items I've linked to) and have yet to receive anything.

Coming up next: lists about Motherhood, Home Education, and Housewifery


09 February 2009

Fajita…in a Pita!

I experimented tonight.  I'm not a big fan of Mexican food (although some spiced, but not hot Mexican food has gotten the nod) - I know, what am I doing living in Arizona?

Anyway, here's what's for dinner:

flat iron steaks, cut into narrow slices
red, green, and yellow bell peppers
a large Maui onion
Roma tomatoes, with the drippy seeds and stuff removed

I sautéed the meat and onions in oil with garlic.  Then I looked in my Culinary Artistry book* to find out what herbs and spices are used in Greek food.  I ended up adding salt, cinnamon, a pinch of allspice, a pinch of ground cloves, a few dribbles of lemon juice, marjoram, mediterranean basil, and parsley, with a pinch of arrowroot to thicken up the sauce.

Then I added the other fresh veggies, cooked the whole thing for about three minutes, and served it on pitas with sour cream.  Yum!



This recipe originally came from Susie Castleberry, by way of Mary Pride's old HELP newsletter.  I've tweaked it a bit.  

8 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (I've substituted rolled wheat and barley for two cups each of the oats; they add an extra bit of texture to the finished granola - have to find new sources for them, but I have a few ideas)
1 cup almonds, sliced or slivered
1 cup coconut, shredded
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 250˚.

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl (I use my hands - easier to break up the brown sugar and I get to play with my food).  Add the vanilla to the melted butter, then add all the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.  Stir until dry ingredients are uniformly moistened.  

Pour out onto two jelly roll pans (I use my jelly roll stone and my 9x9" square stone and my 9" round stone; before I had stones, I'd use a metal jelly roll pan (ie: cookie sheet) and a pizza pie pan).  Bake at 250˚ for 45  minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 200˚ and bake for an additional 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans.  When cool, break apart and store in an air-tight container.  I have no idea how long it'll be good, we usually go through it in just a few days.


Butter-Maple: Substitute grade B maple syrup for the honey and maple sugar for half the brown sugar.  Add 1 tablespoon buttery sweet dough bakery emulsion or butter flavoring (here or here)  You can also add maple flavor.

Valencia Orange: Add 2 tablespoons dried Valencia orange peel (or fresh orange zest) with the dried ingredients and orange bakery emulsion or orange extract with the vanilla.  I use orange blossom honey for this when possible, instead of the clover honey I buy in bulk at Costco.

Cinnamon and Spice: Add 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon mace, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves to the dry ingredients.

In the crockpot: Instead of baking it, I'll put a batch into the crockpot on low for about 4 hours, stirring whenever I begin to smell it.  This gives a bit of a different texture as it doesn't clump up as much as when it's  baked, but it's still good and I can make three batches at a time: one in the oven and one in each crockpot.

You could add different kinds of nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, or whatever.  I've seen recommendations for dried fruit, too (we're not much on dried fruit here, except dried bing cherries).  We like ours a bit on the simple side and would rather play with flavours than textures.  I used mixed grain cereal from the healthfood market, but I didn't like the taste that the sunflower seeds gave the finished granola.

I'm looking for a recipe to turn this into crunchy granola bars.  I've lost the recipe that was in that original newsletter.  I'll post it once I find one we like.


07 February 2009

Playing with Yogurt

Earlier this week I made a batch of yogurt.  After 4 1/2 hours, it still hadn't set, so I turned the crockpot on low for about ten minutes and then re-wrapped it and promptly forgot about it.  Three hours later, it had set up as firm and thick as sour cream.  It was the best I'd ever made.

I tried again yesterday, doing the same thing I'd done earlier in the week (10 minutes on low after 4 hours and then letting it go for another 2 or 3 hours).  Again, it turned out just fabulous!

Now that I'm getting a better handle on yogurt, I'm beginning to research using yogurt as the basis for cream spreads, creamy salad dressings, and recipes to use it in (as a replacement for sour cream, for example).  I'll keep you posted!


06 February 2009

Master Lunch List

And here's the lunch list:

chicken tenders
deli sandwiches
peanut butter and jelly
tuna sandwiches (with homemade mayo)
fish sticks or fillets
bologna sandwiches (The mayo even makes these taste good!)
frozen pizzas (when they're a loss-leader)
hummus & pitas
fresh veggies and dip
burritos, tacos, quesadillas
grilled cheese
mac & cheese (from scratch)
chicken salad sandwiches (also from scratch - that mayo is amazing!)

Again, I'd love your additions to this list!


05 February 2009

Breakfast List, Redux

Wow! What a response to yesterday's post! Cool!!

Regarding how I use the list: well, Patricia, you're more organized than I am. Right now, I never know how much energy I'll have when I get up (still tweaking meds), so I put the master list on the fridge door and then star the things we have ingredients for (almost everything). Then we decide what we'll have when we get up; often the kids decide. I have one son who loves baked oatmeal, and I've told him that, if he wants to make it the night before and put it into the fridge overnight, he's more than welcome to. He hasn't done so yet.

My kids pretty much cook their own breakfast (unless I have the energy to make pancakes or something like that). My little girls fry eggs, the older girls keep the granola in stock, the boys are good at scrounging.

And I have the hardest time with leftovers. If we have them, they usually end up as lunch, but we don't often have them. For example, I made two large crockpots of stew Tuesday evening and there was none left when we were done. When I was younger, I used to eat cold pizza for breakfast, but we never have leftovers anymore, especially when we make it ourselves.

I forgot to add to the list farina (like whole wheat cream of wheat) and crustless quiche (which, I guess could count as egg casserole). I have some corn grits, but they're pretty old and stale and tasted pretty bad the last time I tried them. The kids scramble eggs and wrap them in a tortilla.

I can't believe I forgot waffles! I think because I'm trying to cut down on purchasing pre-made food, but we have a couple of waffle irons and can make a double batch to pop into the freezer for another day.

I have a great breakfast book: Breakfasts & Brunches from the CIA (the link is below). Some of the recipes are a bit involved, but they're pretty good and offer lots of creative tweaks. I'm getting hungry sitting here looking through it!

I love the egg muffin idea, only I'm a bigger fan of bacon egg biscuit sandwiches (Drew stocked up on canned biscuits the last time they were on sale, and when they're gone, there's an easy cream biscuit recipe on Cook's Illustrated's website).

Here are the recipes I'd love to have:

breakfast tacos and egg casserole (unless it's like quiche, in which case, I'm covered) from Renee
oven pancakes and toad in the hole from Patricia
wheat berries (proportions of berries to water?) and muesli (what's the difference between muesli and granola?) from Carolyn

Breakfasts & Brunches

04 February 2009

Master Breakfast List

As promised, here's my master breakfast list:

hash-browned potatoes (we purchase dried hash-browns at Costco)
oatmeal, Coach's or Irish
French toast
coffee cake
banana bread
biscuits & gravy
fruit, canned or fresh
baked oatmeal
English muffins
non-English muffins

If you have any ideas to add to this, I'd love to hear them!


02 February 2009

Menu Planning

My friend Peggy just started a blog. She wanted to join in on Organizing Junkie's 'Menu Plan Monday'. I told Peggy I'd wait to link to her blog until she had a bit more experience and was more confident about her writing. And no, I'm not going to commit to a weekly post about our menus, but I though it might be interesting to give a snapshot of our next couple of weeks.

We shop big every other Friday and Saturday (after payday). We go to the store every three or four days through the rest of the two weeks for fresh produce, milk, eggs, and bread. I have a master breakfast list and a master lunch list. Each two weeks, I put a star by the meals we have the ingredients for and then we can flex depending on what's going on, who is cooking, and how much time we have.

I plan our dinners more carefully, assigning at least a main dish to each evening (sometimes sides too, if I think it matters that night), trying to take into account the ebb and flow of our week.  For example: we try to make Thursdays an easy meal since it's getting toward the end of the week and we're all running low on energy by then.  We also take into account different activities (fortunately, none are weekly; most are bi-weekly or monthly).  All this is in a Pages document that I print out and post on the fridge, with another to go into my calendar.

Sat: pizza (homemade)

Sun: we girls had our tea party and the boys were out at other parties, so we didn't plan anything

Mon: beef stew and biscuits (except that we've got the flu making the rounds, so we're making a run for the Border instead and we'll bump this to tomorrow since the meat was already defrosted (it's cooking now) - something else on this list will get bumped to next pay period.)

Tues: chili, cornbread, salad

Wed: French dip, carrot sticks (I'm going to try to make this from scratch instead of buying deli beef.)

Thurs: flat iron steak pitas (kind of a pita/fajita tweak, more Greek than Mexican)

Fri: croques monsieur (Drew and I may be out on a date night and this is pretty easy for the kids to make.)

Sat: pizza (homemade, natch!)

Sun: turkey, stuffing, asparagus (The turkey was free at Thanksgiving and tucked into the freezer; I'll use leftovers later in the week and the rest of the meat will be used as lunch or dinner next pay period for one of our favorite easy meals that my Mémère Bert used to make, chicken sauce (pronounced the French way: the au has a long o sound), and I'll boil up the carcass for more turkey broth for the freezer)

Mon: stir fry chicken (or turkey) w/veggies and homemade teriyaki sauce

Tues: acorn squash soup & blt's

Wed: turkey pot pie (made from turkey leftovers)

Thurs: omelets

Fri: spaghetti

We actually eat pretty well.  Last year, I came down with Epstein-Barr, which, in combination with severe adrenal fatigue, hypothyroid, and extremely low iron reserves, pretty much knocked me out.  My wonderful husband took over the meal planning and shopping, but we ate a lot of boxed mixes.  

I've been under a naturopath's care and am feeling much better.  Since I've got more energy, I'm up for more cooking and we're eating better (both taste-wise and health-wise).  The best part is that, as I make more and more from scratch, we're saving lots of money.

I consider myself a bit of a gourmet.  I'm also pretty picky about what I put into my mouth (certain ingredients and dishes are forever banned from my kitchen).   We purchase the best ingredients (when it matters, butter: yes; flour: not so much), but we're spending much, much less.  My goal isn't to drive our grocery budget down as low as it can go (we aren't planning on eating beans everyday for two weeks to cut the budget), but to purchase the best quality ingredients at the best price.  We're also keeping our nicer meals for Sunday and eating more simply during the week (also helpful for the budget!).

Later this week, I'll post my master breakfast list and my master lunch list.  They really aren't anything special, but having them written out is quite helpful.